Picture this: As a majestic dolphin emerges from the cool depths of the ocean, the sun glistens off its wet skin and you’re blinded by a Beyoncé-esque glow. How does a dolphin keep such an impressive, dewy complexion, you might ask? We don’t really know. But what we do know is that a similar slick and refined appearance has taken TikTok and the beauty world by storm.
Mary Phillips, the celebrity makeup artist loosely responsible for the “dolphin skin” trend, told HuffPost she describes it as a “glistening, hydrated, fresh-out-of-the-water makeup look.”
“Dolphins are known for their smooth, plump, reflective skin, so I think it’s a perfect fun way to describe this aesthetic,” she said.
Phillips also said she thinks she knows why the look has gotten so big: “I’ve always found youthful, glowing skin that just enhances one’s own natural beauty to be timeless.”
Brandon Kirsch, a board-certified dermatologist at Kirsch Dermatology in Naples, Florida, agreed.
“I think ‘dolphin skin’ is an appearance people have actively pursued for a long time, and now a name has developed as a way to provide techniques to achieve it,” Kirsch said.
So how can you get dolphin skin for yourself? According to Phillips, it isn’t achieved by makeup alone.
“Dolphin skin is a multidimensional look using both skin care and makeup products,” Phillips said. “Dewy, luminous dolphin skin starts with having healthy, hydrated, nourished skin. I’m a true believer that living a well-balanced lifestyle and using the right skin care regimen will help keep your skin looking and feeling its best.”
Kirsch said we shouldn’t underestimate the power of good exfoliation. “Using an exfoliant, like a retinol or [an alpha hydroxy acid], will really help shed the top layer of epidermis to make skin softer and more radiant,” he explained.
If you want to try out this glossy, youthful look, check out a few of our favorite products below.
This protective primer that even has 'glow' in the name
“The first step is to shield your skin from damage," Samer Jaber
, a board-certified dermatologist at Washington Square Dermatology in New York, told us. "Make sure you are taking care of your skin by using sunscreen daily to protect your skin from damaging UV rays to minimize discoloration and premature wrinkle formation.”
Supergoop’s Glowscreen SPF 40+++ isn't your momma's sunscreen. It's a great way to ward off those pesky environmental factors that contribute to signs of aging — and
it provides a hydrated, pearlescent base for makeup application. Get the Glowscreen SPF 40+++ by Supergoop! for $36.
This skin-plumping essential that dermatologists love
These handy pads to improve skin texture
Alpha hydroxy acids
are known for their resurfacing abilities and for leaving behind smoother, plumper skin — the perfect dolphin skin canvas.
“You might consider substituting a gentle exfoliating pad instead of your retinoid one night a week," Jaber said. These ready-to-use Facial Radiance Pads by First Aid Beauty contain both glycolic and lactic acids to gently exfoliate and brighten while toning the skin. Get the Facial Radiance Pads by First Aid Beauty for $36.
This cult-favorite moisturizer that keeps skin healthy
Retinoids and exfoliation can be very drying, Kirsch warned.
“You can definitely overdo it, which is why I recommend using these exfoliants and actives in a measured approach and letting your skin build tolerance,” he said. He also came up with a technique he calls the “moisture sandwich”: using a moisturizer on the skin prior to a retinoid, then adding another layer of moisturizer on top as a way to mitigate dryness.
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream is a crowd favorite because of its lipid-restoring ceramides
and its heavy dose of hyaluronic acid
to draw in moisture. Get the CeraVe Moisturizing Cream for $15.99.
This multitasking, complexion-boosting illuminator
The Hollywood Flawless Filter by Charlotte Tilbury is a great way to customize your level of sheen and build a radiant complexion. And don't worry if you're confused about whether this is a foundation, primer or highlight — it's a little bit of all three (and then some). The product can be mixed with or used under foundation, worn on its own or applied like a highlight to focal points of the face that reflect the light.
"Less is more when it comes to makeup," Phillips said. "The key to dolphin skin is hydration, seamless blending and knowing where to add powder and where to let the skin shine."Get the Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter for $44.
This bronzer for all over the face
This Allure 2020 Best of Beauty Award Winner is one of Phillips’ must-haves for achieving dolphin skin.
“To add warmth, I use Nudestix Nudie Matte in Sunkissed onto the cheeks and anywhere the sun would naturally hit for a fresh, bronzed, ‘out-of-the-sun’ glow,” Phillips said. One of the most attractive qualities of this convenient stick bronzer is its nondrying formula and balmy texture. It’s highly blendable and plays nice with other cream and liquid products, so you don’t have to worry about product feathering or separating. The dense stipple brush included on one side of the stick makes this a great option for on-the-go applications and a really seamless finish. Get the Nudestix Nudies Matte Blush & Bronze for $34.
This shimmery, glimmering highlight powder that melts into the skin
I think we can all agree by now that luminosity is a key feature of dolphin skin. The perfect highlighting product can really make or break this whole flipper fad.
Phillips recommends the Tom Ford Sheer Highlighting Duo in Reflect Guilt because of the “perfect amount of reflective luster” it adds to the skin. The finely milled pressed powder formula is satin-like in texture and seemingly absorbs into the skin, leaving behind a wet-looking finish. Phillips likes to apply this highlighter on the high points of the face, like the tops of cheekbones, brow bones and just above the cupid’s bow. You can also apply this product wet to achieve even more vibrancy and eye-catching shine.
Get the Tom Ford Sheer Highlighting Duo for $84.
This radiant and hydrating glow in a bottle
This product is the pièce de résistance to a finished face that’s ready to take a dip in the dolphin skin pond. The Iconic London Glow Spray contains finely milled microshimmers to catch the light while doubling as a hydrating setting mist to keep your makeup in place. The formulation also includes a bevy of skin-loving ingredients like vitamin E
and green tea extract
, which team together to condition skin and protect it throughout the day from oxidative and environmental stressors. The result, according to Phillips,
is a “fresh, glowy look that won’t budge.” Get the Iconic London Prep Set Glow Spray for $27.